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PLoS One. 2013 Aug 5;8(8):e70342. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070342. Print 2013.

Possible involvement of cone opsins in distinct photoresponses of intrinsically photosensitive dermal chromatophores in tilapia Oreochromis niloticus.

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Department of Biology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.


Dermal specialized pigment cells (chromatophores) are thought to be one type of extraretinal photoreceptors responsible for a wide variety of sensory tasks, including adjusting body coloration. Unlike the well-studied image-forming function in retinal photoreceptors, direct evidence characterizing the mechanism of chromatophore photoresponses is less understood, particularly at the molecular and cellular levels. In the present study, cone opsin expression was detected in tilapia caudal fin where photosensitive chromatophores exist. Single-cell RT-PCR revealed co-existence of different cone opsins within melanophores and erythrophores. By stimulating cells with six wavelengths ranging from 380 to 580 nm, we found melanophores and erythrophores showed distinct photoresponses. After exposed to light, regardless of wavelength presentation, melanophores dispersed and maintained cell shape in an expansion stage by shuttling pigment granules. Conversely, erythrophores aggregated or dispersed pigment granules when exposed to short- or middle/long-wavelength light, respectively. These results suggest that diverse molecular mechanisms and light-detecting strategies may be employed by different types of tilapia chromatophores, which are instrumental in pigment pattern formation.

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